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I am working on my first board to have professionally fabricated. Right now I am planning on using seeed studio mainly because they are the cheapest I have found. 10 5cmx5cm boards for $10 is pretty awesome. Their site says they can handle 6 mil traces with 6 mil spacing. I have routed my board to those specifications, and it passes their drc file. I am still a bit worried that this could lead to errors in manufacturing, or will be easy for me to screw up when soldering. It is mostly surface mount components of pretty generous pitches. SOIC and 0805 parts mostly, with a few through hole headers.

Is there any danger to making smaller traces? Is there anything to be gained by making them thicker? I am not expecting current over 100mA or frequencies over 1MHz. I am also planning on paying for 100% etest, so I don't think I need to worry about the fab house delivering non-working boards.


Information:

Seeed Studios

Seeed's Fusion PCB Service

Seeed authorised user review and guide to using their Fusion service

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  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Use larger traces where you have room, but generally consider that it's not the money you risk, but the time it would take to re-order. So check really carefully for design errors - things like wrong footprints, pads that don't leave enough room for hand assembly, wrong size through holes, etc. Print out the design and put the components on it. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Nov 19 '11 at 5:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Seeed studio is awesome, Eric and the guys really get it. You'll be fine. \$\endgroup\$ – zak Nov 19 '11 at 9:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: This excellent reference - TI Analog Engineer’s Pocket Reference - 4th edition provides some useful information on PCB track current/ voltage drop / heat / fusing issues. Especially pages 55-68. \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon May 5 '16 at 5:32
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A reputable PCB house will solidly deliver their minimum standard track & spacing.

Some will let you try finer at your risk and some will reject your work outright if under spec.

I assume that you are using a temperature controlled iron. If not, do.

If you are not confident in your own soldering abilities and you have plenty of room then fattening up tracks and especially pads associated with through hole parts does no harm. I'd give the through hole headers as much copper as you reasonably can - especially if the board is NOT PTH (plated through hole). With PTH you get substantially more strength. If the board is single sided (probably not, but ...) then you want to take great care with through hole pad soldering and due care with everything else.

SMD part pads should be suited to the part and you have to learn to accommodate them rather than them accommodating you.

PS: Others feel free to contradict or improve anything I've said. I have very substantial soldering experience but there is always good stuff and ideas to learn. ________________________________

Related: This excellent reference -
TI Analog Engineer’s Pocket Reference - 4th edition
as well as a vast amount of other useful material
it provides some useful information on PCB track current/ voltage drop / heat / fusing issues. Especially pages 55-68.

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Do you need to go that small? If so, go for it -- it's advertised, and they will deliver. If not, and especially if the assembler (you?) has little soldering experience, go bigger.

Larger traces are easier to solder to, and are better laminated to the FR-4, so you can, but still shouldn't, overheat areas with less risk of traces lifting. I usually don't go below 10 mil (0.25 mm), as it conveniently matches the finer-pitch leads. Minimum features sizes are useful when necking down to stick a trace between other features (between leads, BGA pads, etc.).

Assembling 20/20 mil boards makes me happy.

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If they give 6/6 as their specs, then yes, it's safe to design to that.

However, I wouldn't unless I really need the space. I use 8/8 as my own personal design rules unless there is a good reason not to. That way, any board house in the world can produce the board without problems or extra cost. Note that you can get tighter design rules from a number of places, but as the dimensions get smaller the cost goes up. Just because your board house of the week can do 6/6 before charging more doesn't make that a good design decision unless you need the extra space.

I didn't look up the board house you mention, but $10 for any amount of board is suspiciously cheap. Does that include solder mask, silk screen at least on top, electrical testing? These can save a lot of trouble and human screwups later. Maybe you're OK without these, but you should make sure you know what you're getting. Personally, I wouldn't get boards without solder mask and silk screen on at least one side.

 

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  • \$\begingroup\$ yeah, they do solder mask and silkscreen on two sides. I have been a bit confused why they are an order of magnitude cheaper than most other alternatives I have seen, but people have reported success with them. \$\endgroup\$ – captncraig Nov 18 '11 at 18:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've ordered a board and they delivered my boards in working conditions, in the stated time. They did add an extra number to the silkscreen though, probably to find back the boards for each order after depanelizing. \$\endgroup\$ – drxzcl Nov 19 '11 at 0:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I got 2 set of boards, silkscreen and solder mask was included. It was a great job for that money. \$\endgroup\$ – abdullah kahraman Nov 19 '11 at 9:31
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They usually give a minimum that's slightly over their actual capabilities so you will be fine. The e-test makes sure anyway.

Thicker traces have less resistance and can handle more current, so use as necessary. Obviously you don't want to use tiny 6 mil traces for things like power rails.

As mentioned if you don't need to go that small, don't. Generally you would stick with the maximum you can get away with and set your trace width rules up for different nets. For 0805 parts I would probably use at least 10 mils.

If you are soldering this manually then make it as easy as you can for yourself. The thinner traces and especially annular rings are, the easier it is to lift/damage them when assembling or reworking.

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I've used ITead Studio, who use the same manufacturer as Seeed Studio, for three sets of boards. They don't recommend 6 mil tracks, although the factory can manage them. I'd use 8 mil, as a minimum. I wouldn't have any hesitation using the minimum with other suppliers, though.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ iTead Studio does great job! They manufactured a board with 7 mil spacing and no problems at all. \$\endgroup\$ – abdullah kahraman Nov 19 '11 at 9:27
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No, it is safe. If they can't do that reliability, they have factored that into their price. Paying for 100% etest covers you.

6/6 mil isn't bleeding edge.

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